Five nations have signed a letter of intent for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC) project, according to a Nov. 19 press release. France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom will use the NGRC project to replace aging helicopters set to end their life cycle between 2035-2040.
The ceremony took place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic with each defense minister signing from their respective capitals.
“Medium lift helicopters are a crucial part of allied inventories and a key enabler of rapid deployment and transfer in and out of theaters,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană said in remarks during the virtual signing. “Many platforms currently in service are reaching the end of their life cycle and will start to be phased out in the next 15 to 20 years. The goal of this initiative is for participating allies to develop and field the next generation of medium-lift helicopters to ensure a seamless transition between the two generations.”
The development of the NGRC project started in 2015 with a workshop on future requirements and then progressed in 2016 to the formation of the NGRC Team of Experts (TOE), which released a 2018 report stressing the need to update rotorcraft.
Col. Paul Morris, assistant head of air maneuvers for the British Army, spoke about his work with the NGRC TOE in an Oct. 6 presentation. During the presentation, Morris said NATO was looking to medium-range aircraft because of the cost savings that could be optimized by the balance of a medium-range fleet versus a single heavy-lift fleet. Morris also said medium rotorcraft would be optimal for global reach and urban environments.
Morris said the NGRC would look to key technology drivers like flight control and performance, avionics and mission equipment, teaming, and lethality when developing new rotorcraft.
“We’re looking at advancing sectors, fly by wire technology, active control avionics and mission equipment, and the modular consistent architectures,” Morris said. “The trailblazing work that [Future Vertical Lift] FVL is doing, we watch with keen interest. We see this as the way forward.”
Experts from all five nations will put together a Statement of Requirements over the coming years, the release said. In October, Morris said that if a letter of intent was signed at the end of 2020, an industry day would take place in 2021.
“By investing our resources and channeling our development initiative through a multinational framework, we are making sure allies are equipped with the best available capabilities which helps to maintain NATO’s technological edge,” Geoană said